The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. It carries a risk of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and other cancers. Less commonly recognized is that HPV is associated with nine out of ten - 90 percent - of anal cancer cases, or that more women than men are diagnosed with this cancer. Now both women and men have a new prevention tool.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the vaccine Gardasil, made by Merck, to include prevention of anal cancer and associated precancerous lesions. The approval covers people aged nine to 26. The vaccine was previously approved for the same age group to prevent cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers in females, and for genital warts among both sexes.
One of the most well known anal cancer patients was actress Farrah Fawcett, who died in 2009. The disease is considered rare, but is on the rise. In 2010 it is estimated there will be about 5,300 new cases and about 700 deaths. Risk factors, in addition to HPV, include being over age 50, having many sexual partners, having anal sex and smoking, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Treatment for anal cancer is challenging; the use of Gardasil as a method of prevention is important as it may result in fewer diagnoses and the subsequent surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that individuals need to endure,” said Karen Midthun, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
HPV vaccines cannot prevent cancer in women or men who are already infected with the strains of HPV included in the vaccines. The vaccine is most commonly given to girls and boys before they become sexually active.
According to the FDA, more than 65 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed worldwide since its approval in 2006. The most commonly reported adverse events include fainting, pain at the injection site, headache, nausea, and fever.
HPV Information: http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/
Anal cancer resource page: http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/anal-cancer
Shedding Light on Anal Cancer: http://www.empowher.com/cancer/content/shedding-light-anal-cancer